For more information contact: Andy Post 651-296-5491
This week marked the opening of MNsure and also good news for our public schools. While there continues to be a partial federal government shut down, state operations in Minnesota remain mostly unaffected. If the gridlock in Washington continues, however, certain programs may begin to lose funding. Here is an update on the major issues I’ve been following this week at the State Capitol.
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:
Launch of MNsure Operations
MNsure launched this week and many users faced delays and technical issues during the first few days. This new state agency will be the Minnesota hub for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The cost to date for building the MNsure system is $150 million, but the price tag could rise as additional fixes for current problems are added. MNsure is now operational but some important features in the enrollment process are not yet active. For example, an online tool that allows users to look up their provider and determine if they can keep their current doctor is not currently operational.
The ACA requires everyone to have health insurance coverage effective Jan. 1, 2014 (with certain exceptions). The penalty for not doing so is the greater of $95 or 1% of household income for the first year. Shopping through MNsure is one way individuals and small employers can purchase health care coverage. Minnesotans can also buy directly from private insurance carriers or work with an insurance agent or broker if they prefer. If you already have health care coverage through a large employer, you likely will not have to do anything different. Senior citizens covered by Medicare will continue to have the same coverage as they have had in the past and do not need to use the MNsure exchange. I will continue to provide updates on MNsure as issues are addressed over the next few weeks. Any constituents having specific problems with MNsure should contact my office and I will be happy to help get them resolved.
Last Budget Certified
State officials announced on Monday that the 2012-2013 budget which was completed June 30, 2013 has now been certified. This budget was passed by Republicans in 2011 and covered the past two years, a period marked by significant economic recovery in Minnesota. Over $3 billion in surplus revenue above projections was generated by hardworking taxpayers. A culmination of factors contributed to the surplus, but slowing the growth of government spending and keeping tax policies stable were two important ones incorporated into this budget period.
Because of this surplus, Minnesota schools will receive $636 million in funding to cover the costs of aid borrowed from them in the past. Both Republicans and Democrats have used the tool of “shifting” funding to borrow from schools over the last four years when leading the legislature, totaling over $2.4 billion. I supported legislation that would have made these shifts less common or prohibited and also supported a provision to pay back the schools earlier this year from the state’s reserve account. The important takeaway is that the schools are close to being made whole from the budget struggles that the state endured during the 2008 recession and its recovery. $238 million remains to be repaid and I hope the legislature will act to do so when we reconvene in February.
Consequences of Minimum Wage
As a member of the House Select Committee on Living Wage Jobs, I have been closely following the minimum wage debate in Minnesota. I recently wrote an opinion piece in the Grand Forks Herald describing some of my concerns with proposed legislation that would raise our state’s minimum wage by over 40%. A large minimum wage increase will likely hurt the low wage and part-time workers it is intended to help. It will cost jobs and bring more pain to small businesses and restaurants at a time of increased government mandates. In February, the legislature will again take up this issue and there will be significant public debate. I welcome your feedback on how it might impact you.
Yellow Ribbon Community
Congratulations to Eden Prairie on being named a Yellow Ribbon Community! A Yellow Ribbon Community unites all areas within a community to create a comprehensive network that connects and coordinates agencies, organizations, resources and employers for the purpose of proactively supporting service members and military families within our community. There will be a ceremony honoring Veterans before the Eden Prairie/Wayzata football game next Friday, October 11. Veterans and Servicemembers will be provided free admission. Thank you to all those who made this honor possible.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in St. Paul. If I can ever be of service to you, please contact me.
Rep. Jenifer Loon
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